Widely considered to be the first Mexican actress to become a Hollywood movie star since Dolores Del
Rio, Salma Hayek is known for bringing a fiery presence and striking, dark-eyed beauty to the screen. A soap star in her native Mexico, Hayek risked her entire career to come to L.A., where she struggled to be taken seriously. Her discovery by director
Robert Rodriguez, who cast her in his 1995 film Desperado, gave Hayek her breakthrough, and she subsequently gained a reputation as one of Hollywood's sexiest and busiest actresses.
The daughter of a Diana Hayek, Spanish and Hayek Dominguez, Lebanese, Salma Hayek was born in Coatzacoalcos,
Veracruz, Mexico, on September 2, 1966. Raised in a devoutly Catholic family, she was sent to a Louisiana boarding school at the age of 12. After getting into trouble for terrorizing the nuns, Hayek returned to Mexico, but she was eventually sent to Houston, Texas, to live with her aunt, where she stayed until she was 17. She subsequently moved to Mexico City, where she studied
International Relations as a university student, but, to the chagrin of her family, decided to drop out in order to pursue a career as an actress.
After she dropped out of college, she started acting in local theatres, and was soon discovered and began her career in Mexican TV soap operas in late 80s. The eagerness to perform was not strange as her mother was a opera singer. Starting out in local theatre productions, she eventually moved to television and landed a starring role in the popular soap opera
Teresa. The show's success made Hayek a celebrity in her native country, but, desiring something more, she shocked her fans by deciding to quit the show in order to pursue a career in L.A.
After taking a year to learn English and study acting with Stella Adler, Hayek got her first break when
Allison Anders cast her in a supporting role in Mi Vida Loca, 1993. The role allowed Hayek to obtain a Screen Actors Guild card, and after doing so, she continued to audition until she appeared on a Spanish-language cable access talk show that happened to count director
Robert Rodriguez amongst its viewers. Rodriguez tracked Hayek down and promptly cast her in
Desperado, his bigger-budget 1995 sequel to El Mariachi. The film, which also starred
Antonio Banderas, succeeded in giving the actress her own plot on the Hollywood map, and Rodriguez again demonstrated his faith in her when he cast her in his next project, the vampire extravaganza From
Dusk Till Dawn, 1996. Unfortunately for Hayek, the film, which also starred
George Clooney, failed to do as well as expected, and Hayek's next few projects were similarly lackluster.
1997 was really a busy year for Salma Hayek. She filmed Breaking up with Russell
Crowe, She made a special appearance on Lucy Orozco television series, was in the film
The Hunchback, she acted with Neve Campbell in Scream.
The Faculty, 1998, a teen thriller that cast Hayek as a teacher who turns into an alien, was an exception, and
Kevin Smith's Dogma, 1999, which featured her as a celestial muse, was fairly successful with critics and audiences. Also in 1999, Hayek had a starring role in what was to be her biggest film to date,
Barry Sonnenfeld's Wild Wild West, which also starred Will Smith and
In 2000, Hayek could be seen in smaller, edgier ventures, including the independent comedy
Chain of Fools, in which she played a centerfold-turned- cop, and Mike
Figgis' experimental Time Code, which cast her as Jeanne
If these films ultimately didn't provide Hayek with a role that would draw attention to her genuine talent, this would soon change with the long awaited /biography of tragic artist
Frida Kahlo. With her role as the eponymous character in Frida,
2002, Hayek disappeared into her subject so convincingly that not only would she return to the good graces of critics, but earn an
Oscar nomination as well.